***** Flashback to Imladris *****
“I see that Glorfindel put you on tomorrow’s patrol.”
Rían did not look up from the scroll she was copying. “I asked him to.”
There were a few moments of silence. Rían then noticed the dark brown gaze of the Chief Advisor studying her from across the desk. She sighed deeply recognizing that look as she had been the recipient of it since her return from Rohan years before.
Glorfindel and the twins had found it quite amusing that Rían and Haldir had clashed and quickly made sure the whole of Imladris knew. The three elves were not divulging how they knew of the particulars but Rían suspected Rúmil had informed them.
Slowly Elrond and Rían’s uncle realized something else had happened. Rían’s detached mien that she had perfected over the years appeared to have cracked. Outwardly, she seemed no different, but those closest to her had noticed the tiny hints that something was amiss.
Whenever Lothlórien was mentioned she would tense and if the subject of the wardens was brought up she would grow silent, brooding. On one occasion, Elrohir took his teasing too far and asked if she was able to learn anything from the marchwarden.
I warned you, Elrond had tsked as he tended to his son’s injuries.
“Why are you asking about the patrol?” Rían asks, setting down the quill. “Do you need me here? Is there more work I can help you with, Uncle?”
“Volunteering for this patrol then has nothing to do with the messengers arriving from Lothlórien?” Erestor watched closely for her reaction.
Rían’s heart lodged in her throat. She had heard Elrond was expecting messengers but did not know their origin. What were the odds that —– NO do not think about it!
“Why would that make a difference?” she answers trying her best to sound indifferent. “I am not trying to hide from visitors. I have missed being out in the forest, but if you still need my help then I will stay.”
“No one has accused you of hiding. I am only concerned that Elrohir will use this as an excuse to taunt you further and I believe the Healing House does not have enough supplies to patch him up this time.”
This last said teasingly to set his niece at ease. He could tell she did not know of the party from Lothlórien and the news had indeed unsettled her.
“Do not worry, Uncle,” Rían smiles. “I have found it more satisfying if I do nothing and let Elrohir worry when the hammer will fall.”
They share a brief laugh before returning to their work, Erestor noticing the slight tremble to Rían’s hand.
Three riders neared the borders of Imladris as the sun began to set. Two voices were heard laughing and teasing until a third interrupts them.
“Will you two be quiet?! You are making my head explode.”
“Just relax, tôr, Lady Galadriel wanted you to enjoy this trip.”
“Relax, Rúmil? How am I supposed to do that with you two orclings following me?” growls Haldir.
“But Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel want us to watch and learn from their most esteemed marchwarden,” Orophin grins, putting extra icy emphasis on the marchwarden.
Haldir clenched his teeth so hard he was afraid he would chip a few. He took a couple deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down.
`Do not do anything, do not say anything it will only encourage them,’ Haldir chants repeatedly to himself.
Ever since the return from Rohan and Rúmil told Orophin what had transpired, they had teased Haldir unmercifully. No matter how he reacted; ignoring them or assigning them to the most remote border posts, his brothers remained without remorse. In fact, they took perverse glee to see who could anger their oldest brother the most, hence garnering the worst punishment.
What made Lord Celeborn send his brothers with him this time? A courier assignment to Imladris was routine, nothing much new to learn. He could only hope their stay would be short and he could avoid that dark haired elleth! The Valar knew he did not need both of his brothers witness to any possible confrontations.
They continued in relative silence, not counting Rúmil’s sniggering.
Were they even truly his brothers? Haldir mused. Maybe they had been switched with Mirkwood elflings? Yes, that would explain much.
Moments later, they are met by a Rivendell patrol but the elf in front had an arrow pointed at Haldir. There is tense silence until another horseman comes into view.
“Rían! That is not the way we greet visitors,” Elladan says.
“I thought the Galadhrim would feel more at home with a greeting they are familiar with,” she answers coldly as she slowly, almost reluctantly, lowers her bow.
“Odd, I thought they let ANYONE enter Rivendell,” Haldir says, his voice dripping with condescension.
“You are being let in, are you not?” Rían counters. Of all the messengers to come from Lothlórien, why was it HIM?
The air fairly crackled with electricity as the elves continued to glare daggers at the other.
Rúmil leaned closer to Orophin and whispered, “See, did I not tell you?”
They were both grinning madly at Haldir’s predicament. Since his and Rúmil’s return from Edoras, Haldir had become more tense and spent more time alone but at the same time he seemed to be waiting; for what he could not answer.
His brothers were concerned over his puzzling behavior and when they asked Lady Galadriel about it, she only smiled enigmatically.
`This is something your dear brother will have to come to terms with himself,’ she had said. `He has built those walls; he will have to decide what to do with them.’
After many silent, tension filled minutes Rían settled her gaze on Rúmil and Orophin. Her features immediately softened as she recognized them.
“It is good to see you again, Rúmil and Orophin, it has been so long. Welcome to Imladris!”
Elladan watched in disbelief as Rían led the two younger wardens toward Rivendell. They smiled and greeted the heir to the valley, leaving him with Haldir.
“I apologize for the less than friendly welcome,” Rían says to the two brothers.
“No apology necessary,” Rúmil answers then turns back to grin evilly at Haldir. “You have to be careful who you let into this sanctuary.”
Orophin fought back a chuckle seeing the glare Haldir shot at them.
“What word do you bring from my grandparents?” Elladan asks Haldir as they file in behind Rían and her charges.
“The usual reports of orc activity, spy reports from Dol Guldur and of course, letters from your sister,” answers Haldir, not realizing his gaze never left Rían’s back.
“How are the defenses of the Golden Wood? I have heard orc attacks have increased lately.”
“As they have everywhere, I fear. Although the vile creatures grow bolder and more reckless Lothlórien’s borders are secure.”
While Elladan and Haldir continued their conversation, Rían found herself listening for the marchwarden’s voice. The confidence and the richness in his voice wrapped around her like a velvet blanket and she unknowingly and ever so slightly, began to relax. She did not know how much longer they had ridden when she became aware their subject had turned to Rivendell’s security.
“How often do you join the patrol?” Orophin asks Rían. “Do you have other duties also?”
“Or is this punishment for a failed emissary job?” Haldir adds, not able to stop himself.
Rían glances over her shoulder. Was that a teasing gleam in his eyes? She turns back to the trail before her.
“I would not know as Imladris has never to my knowledge had a failed emissary mission. But to answer your brother’s question I regularly join the patrols at my own request,” she answered, her voice chilly.
“Well, brothers,” Haldir says. “We must certainly watch our backs then.”
Rúmil turned to look at Haldir. Why did his brother continue to taunt Rían? He did not normally treat elleths as such. He looked to Elladan and saw he, too, was confused.
“Why – why would we need to do that?” Rúmil asks hesitantly.
“If it is true as the Imladhel said earlier; if they let me in, they will let anyone in.”
Rían spun around to glare at Haldir and saw a brief glimpse of a smile on his lips. She did not realize she had returned the smile until she saw Orophin grin knowingly at her.
Elrond greeted his guests upon their arrival at the Last Homely House and ushered them inside for a brief meeting. Stable hands came to care for the horses as other servants gathered the visitors’ belongings. Rían was about to help take the horses to the stables when Elrond’s voice stops her.
“I will require your assistance for a time, Rían,” he said, his gaze watched carefully for a reaction.
She hesitated for a moment then nodded her head in a brief bow. “Of course, Lord Elrond,” she managed to answer.
Rían handed her mare to a stable hand then angrily flipped her dark blue cloak over one shoulder before following Elladan up the stairs.
Once in the study, Haldir handed over the satchel containing the missives from Lord Celeborn. A servant poured everyone a glass of wine as Elrond briefly glanced through the letters.
“My lord and lady bid us to wait on your replies,” Haldir says.
“It may be a long wait,” Elrond answers. “There are quite a few missives. Please, enjoy my hospitality as long as you may be here.”
“Thank you, Lord Elrond.” There was a hint of a smile in Haldir’s voice when he glanced at Rían.
She was standing to Elrond’s left and had promptly emptied her wine glass in one swallow upon hearing of the galadhrim’s impending extended stay.
“Haldir,” Elrond says, looking up from the letters he handed to Rían to sort by priority. “Glorfindel spoke to me of you joining him on a short patrol tomorrow to review guard posts.”
“Yes, if that meets with your approval. We believe both our realms will benefit from the other’s experiences.”
“Of course, I will inform Glorfindel and he will probably meet with you after breakfast. Now, I have kept you long enough for this evening. Someone will show you to your rooms and there will be food and hot baths ready for you.”
“Thank you, Lord Elrond,” the three `Lórien elves reply.
“I will see you in the morning then,” Elrond stands as a servant opens the door to lead their guests to their quarters.
“Good night Rúmil. Orophin.” Rían bids warmly before shifting her gaze to Haldir.
“Marchwarden,” she adds stiffly.
A dark brow raised slightly in amusement as Haldir bid Elrond good night. His eyes alighted on Rían. “Quel esta.” Then he was gone.
Rían felt her hands clench into fists. Rest well? Not likely! The words were said softly but the challenge in that grey gaze had been unmistakable!
Tôr – brother
Quel esta – rest well